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‘Medical textiles in India will grow very fast'



Subhash Anand.

World-wide people are living longer and fitter and standards of living are getting better. Medical facilities have developed and world is the market for medical textile products. The healthcare textile segment is, however, still in its nascent stages of development in India.

On a recent visit to Coimbatore to address a conference on medical textiles organised by the PSG College of Technology, Subhash Anand, Professor of Technical Textiles and Chairman of the Textile Institute, University of Bolton, tells M. Soundariya Preetha on the opportunities for Indian textile manufactures in this segment.

Traditionally, India has focused on apparels. Though India is not yet a big force on the technical textile front, automotive textiles has developed in the country. Companies manufacture textile products that are used as roof lining, carpet, and seat cover in cars.

With the growth of the Indian economy, car is not a luxury any more. People need it as a mode of transport. India is expected to produce two million cars annually soon. So, it needs textile products that are used in automobiles and Indian manufacturers have entered this segment.

The medical treatment and facilities in India are second to none. The Indian textile industry has to produce products to protect, treat and heal.

“Medical textiles in India will grow very fast, may be at the rate of 10 per cent year-on-year during the next five years.” The medical textile products made in the country now are mainly the traditional items such as cotton gauze, bandages, and plaster.

In medical textiles, there are products that are essentials (sanitary products, diapers, etc), textile casts and bandages, barrier fabrics and special products.

In the United Kingdom, about 5,000 deaths occur annually of those who go for routine treatment, but catch an infection and fall ill. In India too there will be such deaths. Hospitals need anti-microbial, anti-allergic and anti-bacterial textiles that will protect people from infections. This is a sector with huge potential even in India.

Cotton is a natural fibre. When it is treated with special finishing, bugs cannot grow on it. Such textiles are almost non-existent in India. Infection control is a major world-wide phenomenon. There are technologies for these. Even in Coimbatore there are companies that are seriously looking at providing these. The United States, Europe and Japan have technologies even for mass production of these products.

Barrier fabrics include bed linen, gowns, and caps, and these are required in large volumes in the hospitals.

Apart from these, there are implantable materials – special areas where artificial devices replace human body parts. Arteries and ligaments can be replaced with textile products. These are high value-added, highly engineered products that are not for mass production. These will probably come to India gradually.

“I suggest that the Indian manufacturers initially go in for the mass products.” The margins are high and world is the market. India does not lack in technical skill. It is a matter of getting knowledge of the products and how to manufacture them. What should be available is knowledge and understanding of medical textiles and about non-woven technology.

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